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State pollies get personal in Holden fight

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It’s getting nasty: Premier Jay Weatherill and Opposition Leader Steven Marshall called each other fakes in a radio interview today as Holden became the central pre-election issue.

Holden’s future looks shaky after weekend reports emerged that Holden had decided to announce the closure of its Australian operations – a decision then reportedly changed at the last minute.

Holden’s local management, however, denies any decision has been made.

Weatherill claimed on FIVEaa the Liberal Party had created a hostile environment in its dealings with the auto manufacturer.

He later went head-to-head with Liberal leader Steven Marshall in the ABC Radio studios at Collinswood where the gloves came off.

“That’s a pathetic excuse for a divided Liberal Party,” the Premier said when responding to Marshall’s argument that while there was consensus in Australia on the desirability of Holden’s ongoing presence, global decisions may be out of local hands.

“I’ve spoken to (Holden Australia’s boss Mike Devereux) and he denies it – he denies that a decision has been made.

“I’m not interested in this fake bipartisanship. If you had any guts at all you’d join with me in demanding federal government action.”

Marshall responded by accusing the Premier of “fake rage”.

“All this fake rage … you think the best way to negotiate this is through the media and wearing red t-shirts,” Marshall said.

“You had your chance in March 2012 when you claimed you’d done a deal with Holden … you had your chance and you fluffed it.”

The Premier defended his March 2012 deal, with the claim that the business case it was based on had deteriorated.

“There were changes to the international exchange rate that made the business case no longer viable,” he said.

The exchange rate in March 2012, however, was AUS$1.03 to the USD$1 – its rate today of 91 cents is a marked improvement that benefits local manufacturers.

InDaily has asked the Premier’s office to clarify the exchange rate remarks.

Earlier in the day, Weatherill told national media the future of Holden now sits with the Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

“The future of Holdens is in the hands of the prime minister,” he told Sky News.

The government is waiting on a Productivity Commission report before deciding its next move.

Weatherill has arranged to meet Abbott in Canberra on Thursday, ahead of a Council of Australian Governments meeting on Friday.

His federal Labor colleague Nick Champion said today he was confident Holden would stay in Australia if the Abbott government put forward the right suite of policies.

There was no reason to think Holden was planning on pulling out.

“The only people who are saying that are unnamed cabinet ministers, who don’t have the guts to come out and put their name to their claims,” Champion said.

Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt weighed in with a reference to the carbon tax and the federal government’s plan to remove the tax.

“We could give Australian vehicles a level playing field,” he told reporters in Canberra, adding car exporters in Japan, Korea and Thailand paid no carbon tax.

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